© Mahmood Abdi

At Sababi, we conduct our own research and implement studies led by other researchers that demand academic-grade data collection even in difficult-to-study regions.

Social and Justice Attitudes of Traditional Somali Elders

Somali clan elders are the main arbiters of interpersonal and intergroup disputes. They are often called upon to resolve intra-household conflicts, act as judges and advocates in minor civil cases, enact punishment and restitution in murder cases, and everything in between. Their role as mediators in inter-clan conflict has elevated their importance in politics — elders are essentially responsible for selecting parliamentary representatives for their clan in Somalia, and elders serve in the House of Elders (or Guurti) in Somaliland. This project is the first large-scale survey of clan elders. Our goal is to understand how elders view issues of justice and dispute resolution and whether there are avenues for reform of Somali customary justice (xeer) that would enhance access to justice for marginalized groups without undermining the only justice institution that serves most Somalis. In addition, the project captures political and social attitudes of clan elders, maps the structure and hierarchy of the elder system, and provides empirical data on the size of clans in different locations.

Partners: This project is being funded by the Clingendael Institute and the Knowledge Platform for Security & Rule of Law, through the Knowledge Management Fund.

Explore the public data on elders’ attitudes and avenues for reform of xeer.

The Somali Dialogue Platform

The Somali Dialogue Platform is a policy dialogue and facilitation initiative, managed by the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) and under the broader Somalia Stability Fund, that responds to the need to support more collaborative, productive and inclusive political processes that can transform Somalia’s political settlement. Sababi provides Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) leadership to the Platform. Sababi is responsible for the design and implementation of the Platform’s MEL systems, ensuring that impact and contribution to political settlement processes are clearly defined, evidenced, and communicated through the use of credible and innovative methodologies. As MEL lead, Sababi advises the programme leadership on overall design and MEL, trains programme and partner staff in delivering MEL activities, and ensures programme donors have a clear understanding of the Platform’s work. Sababi is also responsible for the development, implementation, and design of the knowledge management system, capturing both internal and external data and documentation to contribute to a culture of learning and adaptation within the programme.

Lessons Learned from the Somali Girls' Education Promotion Program - Transition Phase

SOMGEP-T was an FCDO-funded education program implemented in Somaliland, Puntland, and Galmudug from 2017 to 2022. Building on past evaluation reports, internal documents, and incorporating new qualitative interviews, the team produced a variety of research briefs and learning papers for public dissemination.  The research briefs included case studies of the program’s Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and their links to higher enrolment rates; the attitudes of religious leaders toward girls’ education and their influence on community norms; and how after-school girls’ clubs (Girls’ Empowerment Forums) affected beneficiaries confidence, social capital, mental health, and likelihood of continuing their education.


Mahad Mohamoud Ibrahim

Mahad oversees Sababi’s Somali Portfolio, including operations and administration of Sababi’s office in Hargeisa, and all aspects of fieldwork implementation. Over the last 8 years, he has managed some of the largest fieldwork initiatives in Somalia, with teams numbering up to 60 enumerators, for organizations like CARE International, UNICEF, UNOPS, Somalia Stability Fund and others. He has also collected primary data in every region of Somalia, typically on nuanced or conceptually challenging topics (e.g., constitutional reform and democratization). From 2016 to 2019 he was a Researcher and FW Manager for Forcier Consulting, after which he was the Senior Fieldwork Manager at Consilient. Mahad graduated at the top of his class (highest distinction) at Admas University with a B.B.A. in Management in 2013 and subsequently helped coordinate Admas’ distance learning program from 2014-2016.

Brenton D. Peterson

Brenton is a political scientist who studies political behavior, social identity, and survey methodology. His research has appeared in some of the top journals in political science. Within the development sector, he specializes in evaluations of large-scale education programs, political and context analyses, and research on election- or democratization-related conflict. He has led data collection in Kenya, Somalia/Somaliland, and South Sudan. Prior to Sababi, he was the Director of Research at Consilient, based in Hargeisa (2020-2022), and served as the internal technical backstop, trainer, and reviewer of research outputs as the Chief Research Quality Officer at Forcier Consulting (2015-2020). In both positions, he focused on applying the best possible research methods in contexts where standard practices break down. He was previously a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia, and completed fieldwork in northern Kenya.


Manar Zaki

Manar is a social scientist who specializes in research on access to justice, policing, and the relationships between customary and statutory institutions. Her recent work includes studies of Somalia’s customary justice system, the justice attitudes and needs of Somali women, and community-police relations. She has developed most of the internal systems Sababi uses for monitoring and assessing data quality and has managed primary data collection over 50 fieldwork initiatives in the Horn of Africa. From 2019 to 2022 she was the Research Manager and then Director at Consilient, in Hargeisa. Prior to her work in East Africa, Manar worked in both the private and nonprofit sectors in Nepal, India, Ireland, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Manar holds a Masters in Development Practice from Trinity College Dublin and a BA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.